By Tracy Belcher
My journey to Pilates started where so many of life’s great turning points occur… in my therapist’s office.
My name is Tracy Belcher, and I am a Pilates teacher in Miami, FL, and a classical convert. I also run Pilatay.com, a blog for and by Pilates teachers.
I found Pilates as a busy public relations professional at a top PR firm, about 14 years ago. Late nights and long days left me little time to workout. I had tried everything from kickboxing to capoeira, but nothing really stuck… until I met my first reformer. The tight deadlines, coupled with managing 7-10 accounts, client expectations, and the staff team on each account, left me ridden with insomnia and anxiety. Pilates calmed my mind and centered me in a way nothing had before. I was hooked.
Fast forward several years. I was now working as the marketing and communications director for Miami’s flagship art museum. My work had primarily been behind-the-scenes strategy, writing, and planning, and I loved that aspect of it. I also had to manage the whole social event side of PR, which is my personal hell. I was still under a lot of stress, and was generally unhappy, unhealthy, tired and anxious.
So there I was, in my therapist’s office, complaining about my ‘dream job.’ I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew that wasn’t it.
“What do you like to talk about?” she asked.
The answer left my lips without any thought or hesitation. I waited for her to laugh. She didn’t. Instead she asked about the industry and how instructors make money. The thought of closing the door on a successful career I had worked so long and hard to build was overwhelming, but she helped me see that doing something I am passionate about could be a real possibility.
I decided I would go through a “teacher training” program, not to actually become a teacher, but to learn the practice more deeply. At least that’s what I told myself.
I signed up for a comprehensive program at Polestar Pilates. I liked that it fused Pilates with physical therapy/rehabilitation. No matter where I went from there, this heavy focus on functional anatomy would provide a solid foundation.
I will never forget my first day. It was me and a room full of physical therapy students who spoke another language. I felt like a foreigner. “Don’t worry if you don’t pass the first time,” I was told. “It will probably take you a few tries.”
I learned, to my surprise, that I LOVED teaching. And, I was really good at it. Polestar encouraged students to think critically about everything and each client, and to build a program around their individual needs. Many of the skills I developed in communications – strategic thinking, problem-solving, goal-setting, outcome measurement – helped me to be a better teacher.
I practiced, taught, observed and studied every moment I was not at work or sleeping. In the end, I passed right away and was one of the first two in my class to go on to pass the PMA.
I started teaching two hours a week… which, over the course of a few years, turned into 20 hours a week at three different studios. I taught before and after my day job at the museum, juggling classes with works events. I “hearted” the hustle. I loved it more every day.
While at Polestar, I was introduced to the The Franklin Method (more), which uses Dynamic Neuro-cognitive Imagery™, anatomical embodiment and educational skills to create change. It teaches you how your body was meant to move, and to more consciously experience that movement. While I was sometimes overwhelmed with the “science of anatomy,” I absolutely loved the art of it. I had the opportunity to train with the method’s founder, Eric Franklin, in New York. After nine months, four week-long modules in New York City, and countless study and practice workshop hours back in Miami, I was a Franklin Method teacher. Incorporating this practice into my teaching helped me get clients to achieve those “aha moments” we movement teachers live for.
After a few years, and what felt like one million life lessons on how to be self-employed and successful (you can read about some of them here), I started to get my footing and turn a profit as a full-time Pilates teacher.
I heard about Real Pilates by Alycea Ungaro, a New York City-based classical Pilates teacher training program that would take place in a Fort Lauderdale studio, led by Romana-trained students. I was intrigued. And frankly, craving more education.
I had heard a little here and there about “classical Pilates” but mostly about how “outdated” it was. I took it with a grain of salt. I wanted to see what this classical Pilates stuff was really about.
I completely surrendered to the process. The Pilates system was so much more complex and complete than I had known. I learned to get more out of my clients, and to use my own body and tactile cues to help them squeeze the juice out of every workout.
I also learned a lot about the teacher I wanted to be, and the tribe I wanted to surround myself with.
My body changed in a way I did not know possible. And then I brought it to my clients, and their bodies changed. I started to see the possibilities all around me:
- I have an 89-year-old client whose sessions, for years, had been consumed with managing the severe arthritis in her knee. Since moving her over to the classical system, her knee is now, literally, a non-issue. She doesn’t even think about it anymore. It doesn’t even come up.
- I have a client who was desperate to get her life back after a surgery left her heavier than she had ever been. She was just feeling generally bad about herself. She dedicated herself to her Pilates practice, lost 50 pounds in 36 sessions and gained the strength and self-confidence to start participating in life again. (Read more at Pilates Saved My Life)
That great Joseph Pilates quote, “In 10 sessions you’ll feel a difference; in 20 sessions you’ll see a difference; and in 30 sessions you will have a whole new body.” Well THIS is what he was talking about. What was I doing all this time?! THIS was Pilates!
So that’s my journey. I am now a busy teacher, but I will ALWAYS be a student first. While my contemporary background has undoubtedly made me a more thoughtful, confident and competent teacher… I am fully committed to “going more Joe.” I take at least one private lesson per week with a mentor, as many workshops as possible, and I am constantly trying to talk myself out of entering into another certification program. I never get the Sunday blues anymore (in fact, I actually get excited for a new week). Many of the people I met in my previous life as a marketing and communications professional are now my clients, and we have incredibly meaningful connections. I still dabble in marketing and communications by consulting with Pilates, yoga and meditation studios on different projects, and I love connecting with my fellow Pilates addicts via Pilatay.com. I hope you will subscribe to pilatay.com and follow me (Instagram @pilatay). I would love to connect!
Tracy Belcher is an insured and certified Pilates and Franklin Method teacher based in Miami, FL. She is certified by Real Pilates (by Alycea Ungaro), Polestar Pilates, Pilates Method Alliance®, and Franklin Method®. She teaches private lessons on all Pilates apparatuses, group reformer classes and group mat classes with props. She also teaches Franklin Method workshops, a system that uses anatomical embodiment and Dynamic Neurocognitive Imagery (DNI) TM to create lasting change in body and mind.